Conferences, conventions, and expositions are returning and bringing new life to struggling industries with them.
- The ConExpo, the largest construction and industry event in the U.S., attracted around 140,000 construction workers, business owners, and suppliers to Las Vegas in March.
- The crowds marked the event’s largest monthly attendance since before the pandemic.
- Pandemic-related concerns stopped most conferences from happening in the last couple of years, but in-person events are making a comeback.
- These events also represent essential economic stimulus for the cities where they are held, as conferences bring in hundreds, sometimes thousands, of out-of-town customers, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Why it’s news
Returning conferences are not only notable because they represent a return to normal workplace practices, but these events are also an important boost to local economies in many cities. Las Vegas is an extreme example, as it relies on tourism more than others.
With plenty of hotels, casinos, theaters, and restaurants, Las Vegas is set up perfectly to accommodate the large numbers of tourists who visit. Around half of southern Nevada’s $154 billion in gross economic output last year was thanks to out-of-town visitors. Tourism remains the area’s biggest employer, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Such dependency on tourism meant that the city was hit hard by pandemic shutdown protocols and reduced travel. The unemployment rate in the Las Vegas-Henderson-paradise metro area is lower than its 34% high in 2020, but it is still above pre-pandemic levels.
Last year, conference attendance was only around 25% of the 2019 crowds—about 5 million people. If attendance this year indicates continued growth, the area could see more job openings become available.
Restaurants, entertainers, and casinos all see increased traffic when conferences are in town, and these tourists spend plenty of money at Vegas locations. Last year, Convention attendees supported 38,000 jobs in the region, $2.1 billion in wages, and contributed $7.5 billion in direct economic impact, The Wall Street Journal reports.
While providing money for the area’s economy, these tourists also contribute very little strain on the state’s services. For example, these tourists will spend their money but not use the school districts or any state welfare benefits.
Other cities, like Seattle and Dallas, are betting on a convention resurgence in the coming year. Seattle recently opened a $2-billion addition to its convention center. Dallas recently approved a $4-billion expansion to its convention centers.
While conferences may experience another slowdown if the U.S. enters a recession, it appears that conventions will come back.